Sunday, June 18, 2017

Salas defeats Longoria to reach final of 2017 LPRT Paola Longoria Challenge

Samantha Salas defeated Paola Longoria, the #1 player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT’s), for the first time since 2005 on Saturday, winning 7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7, in the semi-finals of the Paola Longoria Challenge in Chihuahua, Mexico. Longoria had beaten Salas 41 straight matches in between Salas’s victories. Also, this is Longoriia’s first loss since March 2015, when Frédérique Lambert beat her in the New Jersey Open.

The win puts Salas in Sunday’s final against Rhonda Rajsich, who had an upset win of her own in the other semi-final, as she defeated 2nd seed Lambert, 11-5, 9-11, 12-10, 11-3. In their career head to head meetings, Rajsich holds an 11-5 advantage, but Salas has won three of the last five matches, including their last match in the quarterfinals of last year’s US Open, although that did go to five games.

Longoria looked like she would win in three games, as she won the first two games and was ahead in game three. But Salas had shown signs of resistance, including coming back from a big deficit in game one to make it close at 11-7. Nevertheless, it did not look like Longoria would do anything but win in three straight. Yet Salas came back and took game three.

In game four, Longoria got the early advantage, leading 5-3. But Salas then ran seven unanswered points to lead 10-5. Longoria fought off the first game point with a forehand shot driven up the right side. With the serve back, Longoria scored on four consecutive rallies to cut the lead to one at 10-9, and it looked like the LPRT #1 was going to do what she usually does: win.

But Salas got a side out, and then scored on her second game point with a backhand winner. Thus, there was going to be a fifth game that no one saw coming.

In the fifth, Salas took the early lead at 3-0 with three forehand winners. But then it was Longoria’s turn to rack up the points, and that she did, scoring seven in a row to lead 7-3. It seemed Salas’s glass slipper was going to break. It especially seemed so as Longoria’s seventh point came from an unforced skip by Salas.

However, Salas made a great forehand pinch shot winner to end the next rally, and with the serve back she hit two ace serves: a drive to the right followed by a drive to the left, which prompted Longoria to call a time out.

Longoria’s time out led to a side out, as she hit a forehand winner. But Salas immediately got the serve back with a forehand pinch shot winner. Two more Salas forehand winners later and they were tied at 7-7. Longoria got the serve back with a forehand winner.

Then two rallies ended with hinders. In the first, Longoria held up for Salas, and appealed for an avoidable, or penalty hinder, but the line judges agreed with the referee that it was a simple hinder. On the next rally it was Longoria who was in Salas’s way, and that was judged to be an avoidable, or penalty hinder. Thus, Salas was again serving at 7-7.

Yet again she failed to take advantage, as Salas made an unforced error by skipping a backhand shot. With the serve back, Longoria seemed to change her serve selection based on a suggestion from outside the court. She served a off speed Z to the left that Salas returned with a backhand wide angle pass for a winner. So, it was perhaps not the best suggestion.

Longoria wouldn’t serve again until Salas was leading 10-7 following two forehand winners and an ace drive serve to the right side.

On the first match point, Salas drove serve to the right side, and Longoria’s return hit Salas, who the referee judged to be in the way, and assessed an avoidable. Salas appealed, but the line judges agreed with the call.

However, Longoria’s serve was again not a straight drive serve, which is her bread and butter serve. Instead, she hit a jam serve to the left that was relatively high, so it bounced over to the right side, where Salas hit it with her forehand for a winner.

Salas’s second time serving for the match had a successful outcome for her, as she ended a several shot rally with a forehand cross court kill shot.

After winning the match, Salas fell down to the floor in utter joy at having defeated her long time team-mate and doubles partner. It was likely not just the joy of victory, but also the relief of over a decade of losses.

Only once before has Longoria lost a pro match after leading 2 games to 0. That happened in May 2011, when Rajsich came back to defeat Longoria in Stockton.

Salas’s only pro tournament win happened back in 2010, when she defeated Kerri Wachtel in Puget Sound, Washington. Rajsich last won on tour in October 2014, when she beat Longoria in Stockton. Salas and Rajsich have played in a pro final once before, when Rajsich carried the day to win in Dallas in August 2011.

You can watch this weekend’s final live via the LPRT LiveStream channel at 1 PM Sunday with the doubles final to follow.

2017 LPRT Paola Longoria Challenge, June 16-18, 2017
Chihuahua, Mexico

Semi-finals - Saturday

5) Samantha Salas d. 1) Paola Longoria, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9
6) Rhonda Rajsich d. 2) Frédérique Lambert, 11-5, 9-11, 12-10, 11-3

Final - Sunday

5) Samantha Salas v. 6) Rhonda Rajsich

Doubles - Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas d. 4) Eleni Guzman & Adriana Riveros, 15-2, 15-1
3) Alexandra Herrera & Monserrat Mejia d. 2) Frédérique Lambert & Jessica Parrilla, 15-14, 15-10

Doubles - Final - Sunday

1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas v. 3) Alexandra Herrera & Monserrat Mejia - 2 PM

Follow the bouncing ball….

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